Meet the people who decide

Back : L-R: Hank Schouten, Tiumalu Peter Fa?afiu, Tim Watkin, Chris Darlow, John Roughan
Middle – L-R: Sir John Hansen (Chairman), Mary Major, Jo Cribb, Marie Shroff
Front L-R: Liz Brown, Christina Tay, Jenny Farrell.
Note ? John Roughan has now retired from the Media Council and Craig Cooper has joined the Council.? End quote.

The NZMC website includes this preamble:?Quote.

The main objective […] is to provide the public with an independent forum for resolving complaints involving the newspapers, magazines and the websites of such publications and other digital media. The Council is also concerned with promoting media freedom and maintaining the press in accordance with the highest professional standards. […]

There is no more important principle in a democracy than freedom of expression. Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are inextricably bound. The print media is jealous in guarding freedom of expression, not just for publishers’ sake but, more importantly, in the public interest. In dealing with complaints, the Council will give primary consideration to freedom of expression and the public interest. End quote.

It is this self-appointed, self-regulatory body that decides whether to act on any complaint made about bias, accuracy, fairness, balance, etc and it was on the previous decisions by this body that Stuff and Nonsense editor Paul Crewdson relied for his stance on the series Quick save the planet.

Decision One: 2013 ?Quote.

Bryan Leyland complains that the New Zealand Herald lacks balance in its treatment of dangerous man-made global warming (generally referred to as climate change) specifically for not publishing the information that global temperatures have not risen in the past 16 years. End quote.

After listing the arguments for and against the?complaint the council made the following statement?Quote.

?Climate change, and the degree of man?s hand in it, will continue to be a contentious topic. There are strongly held views on both sides of the debate and one ?expert? opinion can be traded endlessly against another.

The newspaper says it has placed its faith in ?peer reviewed scientific literature? which confirms that the science is decided and on this there is no room for further debate. It regards Mr Leyland?s views as ?eccentric? and therefore the normal obligations regarding balance can be put to one side. And furthermore, the newspaper argues it has carried a variety of opinions.

However, the majority of articles published by the newspaper contain little if any scientific references and are not peer-reviewed scientific literature. They are opinion pieces in which the only science is the World Bank Project which is quoted to predict that temperatures ?are on track to rise by up to 4C by the year 2100?.

The other quoted science is merely opinion credited to U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres: ?We know that science tends to underestimate the impacts of climate, and if so anything, that gap continues to grow.? […]

Mr Leyland argues that he is not an eccentric and possesses sound credentials for his perspective to command some regard. He is […] complaining about […] what he sees as the refusal of the newspaper to bring balance into its reporting by not alerting readers to new information.

New information, such as that of non-warming global temperatures, should be put before the public and while the newspaper has kept readers informed of many aspects of the subject it appears that it has not specifically highlighted this.

The significance of this omission depends on the weight given to the information.? […]

Principle 1 requires, among other considerations, that publications be bound by the need for balance and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission.

This principle also requires that with articles of controversy or disagreement, a fair voice must be given to the opposition view however the Press Council accepts that in certain circumstances out-lying views can fall outside that requirement. End quote.

In spite of acknowledging that the Herald had only printed opinion and that new information about the lack of warming should be put before the public, the council decided: Quote.

While it does not appear to the Press Council that Mr Leyland?s view is accurately described as an ?eccentric? one, the newspaper has based its coverage on what it considers established science and therefore what it regards as the most useful material on the subject within that theory. It has not gone out of its way to overlook or suppress new information and in accepting that the science is settled, its coverage is based on the need to look to the future implications of man-made climate change. It can not be expected to cover every dissenting opinion on a subject as broad as global climate change.

The latest information from the UK Met Office?s Hadley Centre regarding current global temperatures will almost certainly feature as part of the on-going coverage even if the perspective on its significance is not the same as Mr Leyland?s. End quote.

Therefore the complaint is not upheld. End quote.

The chances of the NZ Herald featuring the real temperature record in future coverage are slim to non-existent and the NZ Media Council has clearly decided that anyone not agreeing with the IPCC is an “outlying view” which can be suppressed.

Decision Two: 2015 ?Quote.

Neil Henderson has complained under Principle 1 (accuracy fairness and balance) and Principle 4 (comment and fact) about the publication of an article on August 21, 2015 in The Gisborne Herald, which covered an official US report that July 2015 was the hottest month on record due to climate change and El Ni?o, after the newspaper refused to print his letter that took issue with the temperature data referred to in the article. End quote.

The recorded decision includes: Quote.

However Mr Henderson’s complaint does raise issues on which the view of the Council may be helpful.

So too do Mr Muir’s [Editor, Gisborne Herald] call for such complaints to be declared “vexatious” and the newspaper’s 2013 decision to severely limit the publication of the views of climate change sceptics.

The Council would be reluctant to label any complaint as “vexatious” and has a policy of treating all complaints with respect and due consideration. However, it would be fair to say that unless the scientific consensus on climate change shifts markedly, or important new information comes to light, it is unlikely complaints alleging lack of balance, because the climate change sceptic viewpoint is not included, will be successful.

An editor can both decide which letters and opinion pieces to publish as well as when to close the curtain or close a discussion topic within his or her publication.

The Gisborne Herald’s 2013 policy on climate change scepticism goes further, by curtailing one aspect of one side of the debate.

As noted above, it is in line with the views taken by other outlets; that the debate has been long, free speech has been allowed its voice and now, with the science well established, the arguments on one side have little merit and will by and large not be published. End quote.

They then quote a number of other media outlets well know for their balanced reporting of the global warming, climate change issue. (NOT) Quote.

As the editor of the Los Angeles Times put it in 2013: “[…] Saying ‘there’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.” Letters claiming there is no evidence humans cause climate change will not be published.

In 2013 the Sydney Morning Herald stated, a letter which claimed “there is no sign humans cause climate change” would not make the grade.

The policy of the Guardian letter editor in Britain seems the most balanced approach and one the Council believes is in tune with the needs of free speech, an editor’s role, and the recognition that science can reach a consensus but certainty is more elusive – or to put it another way all scientific truths are potentially “provisional”.

In the Guardian’s view “you should never absolutely rule out views heretical to the scientific orthodoxy, even if cautious to give them space. So I would be unhappy about an absolute ban on those who might be grouped together as climate change deniers, but would need to see a strong case to run anything from them (and know something about what commercial interests they might be linked to).” End quote.

A nice subtle dig from the Guardian that anyone with a contrary viewpoint is in the pay of Big Oil.? The council also reference the stance of the BBC and CNN, another couple of ‘trustworthy’ climate change outlets.

So there you have it.? Not only is the science settled?the worldwide editorial policy is also settled and Stuff and Nonsense are simply toeing the line like good little boys.

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